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The Greatest Speeches in History: Larry Page and His Commencement Address at University of Michigan

The Greatest Speeches in History is a weekly column that compiles the most memorable speeches in history with the goal to emphasize on the power of public speaking, to illustrate its importance, impact, and necessity to master.

This week under the spotlight falls one of the most notable entrepreneurs of our times – Google’s co-founder Larry Page. Here are the most memorable outtakes from the commencement address at the University of Michigan, which Larry Page gave on May 2, 2009:

“I have a story about following dreams. Or maybe more accurately, it’s a story about finding a path to make those dreams real.”

“You know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night with a vivid dream? And you know how, if you don’t have a pencil and pad by the bed to write it down, it will be completely gone the next morning?

Well, I had one of those dreams when I was 23. When I suddenly woke up, I was thinking: what if we could download the whole web, and just keep the links and… I grabbed a pen and started writing! Sometimes it is important to wake up and stop dreaming.”

“The optimism of youth is often underrated! Amazingly, I had no thought of building a search engine. The idea wasn’t even on the radar. But, much later we happened upon a better way of ranking web pages to make a really great search engine, and Google was born. When a really great dream shows up, grab it!”

“I think it is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams. I know that sounds completely nuts. But, since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition. There are so few people this crazy that I feel like I know them all by first name. They all travel as if they are pack dogs and stick to each other like glue. The best people want to work the big challenges. That is what happened with Google.”

“What is the one sentence summary of how you change the world? Always work hard on something uncomfortably exciting!”

“But also: always remember that the moments we have with friends and family, the chances we have to do things that might make a big difference in the world, or even to make a small difference to someone you love — all those wonderful chances that life gives us, life also takes away. It can happen fast, and a whole lot sooner than you think.”

“53 years ago at his graduation my Dad said: “…we are entering a changing world, one of automation and employment change where education is an economic necessity. We will have increased periods of time to do as we wish, as our work week and retirement age continue to decline. … We shall take part in, or witness, developments in science, medicine, and industry that we can not dream of today. … It is said that the future of any nation can be determined by the care and preparation given to its youth. If all the youths of America were as fortunate in securing an education as we have been, then the future of the United States would be even more bright than it is today.”

“Just like me, your families brought you here, and you brought them here. Please keep them close and remember: they are what really matters in life.”

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